Six-year-old Lyla Nestor is excited to get back into the classroom with her school mates on Monday for the first day of term four.
Lyla, in Prep at St Francis Xavier Primary School, is among a select group of young people to attend school this week in regional Victoria as part of a planned staggered return.
Mum Jess Nestor said it felt like the first day of school all over again for Lyla due to many periods of home schooling during lockdowns.
It is the parents who are struggling the most because we know what the first year of school is all about and they are not getting that.Jess Nestor, parent
She is hoping it will be a term without periods of remote learning interruptions.
"It is not the first year of school we ever thought it would be and it is not the best experience for them, but hopefully this term is," Ms Nestor said.
"The last lot of home learning was definitely the hardest. We did what we had to do, Maths and English, but there was no interest in anything else."
Ms Nestor said Lyla made friends with the nine other girls in her class but she had missed out on time for social development in the classroom, an important part of Prep.
"Even though she has her group of friends, they don't chat a lot on Zoom calls at home," she said.
"They haven't been able to go on any excursions which is a big part of Prep... the school is hoping to do the three excursions that have been cancelled and swimming and sports all in the last term.
"It is the parents who are struggling the most because we know what the first year of school is all about and they are not getting that."
Under the staggered return to school plan, Prep to Grade 2 and Year 12 students are back in the classroom on Monday full-time.
Year 11 students will return to school from Wednesday and all students will be back at least part-time from Monday October 11.
From next week Years 3 to 5 and 8 to 9 will attend school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Years 5 to 6 and 10 will attend Thursdays and Fridays, while Year 7s will return five days a week.
All students will be back in the classroom full-time from Tuesday October 26.
This is an earlier return than for students in Melbourne.
Schools in locked down regional areas, including Moorabool, will be tied to the Melbourne school plan.
But students living in Moorabool or metropolitan Melbourne who go to school in Ballarat will be able to attend school according to the regional schools return plan.
The Melbourne plan will welcome back Year 12 students from October 6, and see Prep students return three days a week, and Years 1 and 2 students return two days a week, from October 18.
Drivers are reminded school speed limit zones will be reactivated from Monday around Ballarat.
While many families are looking forward to the return of some normality at school, one Mount Clear family has made the decision to home school permanently due to their pandemic experience.
Six-year-old Eiley and nine-year-old Bailey will not be returning to their primary school this term, but will instead continue their schooling at home.
Parents Marky Kalla and Brett Ward made the decision with their children two months ago after struggling going in and out of remote learning.
"It is too much pressure and stress," Ms Kalla said.
"Going in and out of school is not good for them because they are always out of routine.
"How it was, it wasn't working... Now this is their school 9am to 3pm and then they can play."
Ms Kalla said she and Mr Ward had never considered home schooling before the pandemic.
In the past, they admired parents who did home school, but thought they would never be able to do it themselves.
Ms Kalla said she now felt confident and they would adjust their lives to make it work, feeling they were making the best decision for their children.
Both Ms Kalla and Mr Ward run businesses, so they have reduced and changed their hours, working early and late at night to fit in with home schooling times.
Eiley and Bailey will follow their old primary school's curriculum this year from home, before transitioning to a home schooling enrolment next year.
Eiley said her mum was a good teacher and Bailey said he preferred the new school arrangement at home.
Ms Kalla said the decision to switch to home schooling was also influenced by her fears her children may be forced to wear masks at school and be vaccinated.
She said another benefit was spending more time with her children.
Ms Kalla said there was reduced time socialising with others, but they would make extra efforts to ensure their children were socialising well.
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